For Immediate Release - July 01, 2013

Conservation Officials Celebrate Creation of 160-Acre Flagg Mountain Wildlife Management Area

Funded through a federal program, the $850,000 acquisition will protect wildlife and aquatic habitat while preserving scenic vistas

ASHFIELD – Friday, June 28, 2013 – Federal, state and local partners gathered today at the top of Flagg Mountain to celebrate the protection of 160 acres of conservation land acquired by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and its Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).

The property, now known as the Flagg Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA), was originally prepared for the development of 25 houses. In April, the Franklin Land Trust (FLT) acquired the property from private owners, Wesley and Annette Rowe, and in May, FLT donated the property to DFG.

“We are grateful for the assistance of numerous partners in the acquisition and protection of this important wildlife area,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. “The Franklin Land Trust, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, our Congressional representatives, the Federal Highway Administration and state partners such as MassDOT were essential in the protection of this magnificent property.”

The complex land protection effort involved assistance from several partners. The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) wrote the grant application and is administering the award thanks to a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which oversees scenic byways grants in Massachusetts. The acquisition was made possible by an $850,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program.

“We are delighted to acquire and administer this property as a new wildlife management area that will conserve habitat for wildlife and provide terrific recreational opportunities for people who enjoy activities such as hunting, hiking and wildlife observation,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin.

At 1,402 feet in elevation, Flagg Mountain is situated in Conway’s northwestern corner on the Ashfield and Buckland town lines. The 160-acre WMA provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants, including white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, wild turkey, red fox, mountain columbine and numerous songbirds. Though most of the property is forested, a portion of the acreage is characterized as high quality aquatic habitat by MassWildlife.

The new wildlife management area abuts approximately 330 acres managed by the New England Forestry Foundation, which links to the 93-acre Buckland State Forest. Together, the three properties form a wildlife corridor of more than 580 acres.

“The development of Flagg Mountain would have forever damaged the rural, scenic qualities of west Franklin County, including the Mohawk Trail and the Village of Shelburne Falls and its Bridge of Flowers,” said Rich Hubbard, Executive Director of the Franklin Land Trust. “FLT is very pleased that this important natural resource will continue to provide scenic, environmental and recreational benefits to the public in perpetuity.”

The National Scenic Byways Program provides funding for byway-related projects each year as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Discretionary Grants Program. Projects to support and enhance National Scenic Byways, All-American Roads and state-designated byways are eligible.

“The Franklin Regional Council of Governments is thrilled to see this critical natural area permanently protected with funding provided through the Scenic Byways Program.  We are proud of the scenic and natural areas in Franklin County and excited to have so many partners come together to complete this project,” said FRCOG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy.

“I am so pleased that this partnership has resulted in protecting a beautiful piece of land for future generations,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “I commend the Franklin Land Trust and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments for their dedication and commitment.  Working with local, state and federal officials, they have done a tremendous service to us all.”

"As a lifelong supporter of land conservation initiatives, I am very pleased that Flagg Mountain in Conway will be preserved for future generations,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal. “This pristine natural resource offers breathtaking views of the hills of western New England and unlimited recreational opportunities. This important project also respects local history, safeguards the environment, and protects an essential wildlife habitat. Due to this conservation effort, visitors to property will find the landscape remarkably similar to what Ebenezer Flagg discovered when he settled here in the 1780s."

“This forward thinking partnership has secured 160 acres of valuable open space, which will be preserved into perpetuity as wildlife habitat,” said Senator Benjamin B. Downing.  “This conservation land will be enjoyed for generations to come, and I congratulate each of the agencies involved for their successful efforts.”

"The preservation of this important property is a smart investment to ensure the protection of this critical wildlife habitat, and to enhance recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy,” said Representative Stephen Kulik. “I congratulate all of the partners in this project for their hard work and dedication to our environment and quality of life here in Franklin County."

DFG is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes and coastal waters.